LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Lawyers for a former Army private charged with raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her and her family asked a judge Friday to dismiss federal charges, saying he should be prosecuted in a military court.
The attorneys argue that the government doesn't have the authority to prosecute former Pfc. Steven D. Green in civilian court for acts committed in a war zone.
"Simply put, the government had no civilian jurisdiction over Pfc. Green when the offenses at issue were committed," Federal Public Defender Scott Wendelsdorf wrote in a motion.
Prosecutors have until March 7 to respond to the defense motions. Sandy Focken, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville, referred calls to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington. A message left there Friday was not immediately returned.
Four other soldiers pleaded guilty or were convicted for their roles in targeting the girl from a checkpoint near Mahmoudiya, a village 20 miles south of Baghdad, and helping rape and kill her. Two of the soldiers testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister, and that Green raped the girl and shot her.
Green, 22, faces a possible death sentence if convicted. He pleaded not guilty in November 2006 after being indicted on charges that included premeditated murder and aggravated sexual assault.
The decision to try four of Green's co-accused in the case in the military "introduces a level of disparity that needs to be rectified by the judicial system," said Darren Wolff, an attorney on Green's defense team.
"This is a military case and should be tried in a military court," said Wolff. "Prosecuting Pfc. Green in federal court is fundamentally unfair, especially given the fact all of the co-defendants in this case were tried in a military court."
Green had been honorably discharged from the military with psychiatric problems when allegations surfaced of U.S. military involvement in the March 12, 2006 slayings. He was arrested that July as a civilian, while visiting family in North Carolina.
The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act allows prosecutors to try military personnel in federal court if they are no longer in the service and charged for a crime punishable by at least a year in prison. Green offered to re-enlist in the Army and face a court-martial for the rape and murder, but was turned down, defense attorneys said in the motion.
Green's lawyers say he faces a much harsher punishment if convicted than his alleged co-conspirators received in military court. A soldier charged as an accessory received five years, while the others' sentences ranged from 90 to 110 years.